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Oct

6

2016

The Marketer’s Guide to Facebook Live [Free Guide]

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At a conference in June, a Facebook VP said that in five years time the platform would be “all video.” That’s a bold statement, but it’s not unbelievable if you’ve scrolled through your News Feed lately.

And one of the biggest drivers behind the growing prevalence of video is Facebook Live, which only was introduced in April of this year, but has since become a major distribution channel for both publishers and brands. Mashable has promised to stream 35 hours of live video per month, and The New York Times is streaming four live broadcasts every day, according to Advertising Age. These in-the-moment, authentic videos are capturing the attention of Facebook users, and it’s time to take advantage of the feature for your own brand. 

Going live on Facebook isn’t complicated — the platform has made it so anyone can stream with their mobile device and access to the internet. But there are a few best practices for live streaming, promoting your event, and driving engagement that will ensure your broadcast impresses your audience and drives new fans to your brand. 

Learn how to start broadcasting with our new online guide — The Guide to Facebook Live. In this guide, you’ll get:

  • Tips on setting up your next live stream
  • Inspiration on the types of content to broadcast
  • Strategies for driving viewers to your Live event

Click here to download your copy of The Guide to Facebook Live today.

Facebook Live Guide

Sep

29

2016

15 Time-Saving Email Templates for Marketing & Sales [Free Guide]

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We waste a lot of time reading and responding to emails at work. So much so that many people have become obsessed with optimizing their time spent “dealing” with email — whether that’s putting limits on the number of times they check their inbox during the day, using a productivity method such as inbox zero, or investing in tools to manage the mess of incoming communications. 

One effective way to reduce the amount of time spent writing and perfecting emails while also improving the chance of your message being opened, read, and responded to is to create a library of email templates you’ve found to be effective.

And you’re in luck because we’ve got a guide to get you started building out this repository. 

In our new ebook — 15 Email Templates for Marketing & Sales — you’ll find sample copy for commonly sent emails you can customize for your own communications. Included in the guide are templates for: 

  • Pitching a co-marketing campaign to an influencer
  • Requesting a customer reference
  • Reaching out to speaker
  • Pitching a guest post to an editor
  • Following up after an in-person meeting 
  • And more!

Cut down on the time you spend writing emails and improve your response rate by downloading the templates here.  

free email copy templates  

Sep

28

2016

How to Use Snapchat for Business: A Guide for Marketers [Free Ebook]

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It used to be easy for marketers to write off Snapchat with its ephemeral social messaging and wacky selfie filters as a silly mobile app. 

But the tool has quickly become the social media darling of the marketing world, leading advertisers to rethink their decision to overlook the platform — in large part because of its rapid growth. According to Bloomberg, the app has more than 60 million daily active users in the U.S. and Canada, and people watch more than 10 billion videos per day

These numbers are appealing to marketers, but Snapchat’s focus on video, the various shortcuts, and its lack of a traditional “feed” makes getting started intimidating. What’s the difference between a Story and a snap? How do you interact with followers? And how do you measure results? 

To demystify Snapchat and how building a presence on the app could benefit your brand, we created aonline guide — The Marketer’s Guide to Using Snapchat for Business.

Check it out here to learn:

  • How to build a following 
  • The best types of content to post
  • The little-known tricks that’ll make you a master at sending snaps

Download your copy of The Marketer’s Guide to Using Snapchat for Business

Snapchat for Business  

Aug

19

2016

How to Use Intrinsic Motivation to Improve Employee Performance

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Most people think that the key to employee motivation is giving performance-based raises. People will work harder for an uptick in their monthly paycheck. 

But this common motivation tactic doesn’t actually do much, according to a Harvard Business Review article that detailed the findings of an analysis of 120 years of previous research. They found little correlation between pay and job satisfaction. One analysis cited found that incentives targeting extrinsic motivations actually had a negative impact on employees’ intrinsic motivation — and this was particularly true where job tasks are interesting rather than boring.

More money does not equal more motivation. Instead, intrinsic motivators are the keys to success and improved engagement in the workplace. 

So here are a few simple ways to motivate your employees when raises and rewards fail:

1) Create a Culture of Respect

Emily Post, who wrote the definitive guide on etiquette, once said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Studies have quantified the positive impact an atmosphere of consideration and respect has on stimulating creative output. Nothing saps energy or creativity like dreading having to work with someone who’s dismissive, short-tempered, or just plain mean.

It’s easy to get caught up in fast-approaching deadlines or in the breadth of details of a major campaign for a key client. Even so, your agency’s leadership team is responsible for maintaining a culture of personal respect.

We’re all adults, and sometimes difficult conversations must be held. But that’s not license to treat people badly. Think of all the mental health days you’ll save because none of your employees have those days where they just can’t bear going into the office and having to deal with so-and-so.

2) Give People Their Time Away

Having said that, your employees don’t exist solely in the agency environment. They’re people with lives outside of work. An important way to treat them with kindness and respect is to show them that their work-life balance matters to you. 

Keep an eye out for employees who never take their vacation time. Insist that they do so. Carrying our work on our phones has its advantages, but it keeps us tethered to the office as well. Enforce stricter boundaries between work and personal time. Do your employees really need to reply to emails sent at 10 p.m.? What’s the underlying lapse that resulted in a 10 p.m. email anyway? Address that instead of expecting employees to be on call 24/7.

When one agency owner re-interviewed his employees to learn more about them and what motivated them, he was struck how many of them are active in efforts meaningful to them outside of work, whether it was with some cause or helping their own families. And many articles on inspiring the intrinsic motivation of employees talk about finding a higher mission of the company as a motivator. But let’s be real. Very few companies are looking to cure disease and end social injustices. Even if you’re doing campaigns for the organizations that are, don’t make your agency shoulder the burden of helping your employees find meaning in their life. Just give them space and time to find and express their own personal vision of an examined life.

3) Mentor Them

Two years from now, few employees will want to keep doing the exact same work they’re doing now. Motivate employees by providing them unambiguous paths to grow professionally. Theoretical potential won’t do.

This means constructive feedback on current work, as well as consistent opportunities to take on new tasks and projects. In addition, set aside budget to pay for employees to attend formal training and conferences, both online and in-person.

Always promote from within wherever possible. If it’s not possible, that’s a big red flag that your staff isn’t getting the mentoring and growth opportunities they need. You need them to grow so your agency can continue to service ever higher quality clients, instead of having to react to high employee churn because they leave to find their opportunities elsewhere.

Leadership Matters

Implementing these motivation strategies requires a compatible agency culture. And culture starts with the agency leadership.

According to a recent Gallup study measuring the engagement of 27 million employees all over the world, managers account for 70% of the variation of employee engagement. Clearly, no single factor determines the level of employees’ motivation more than their managers. Everyone reports to someone. Don’t expect your leadership team to be the employee-motivating managers you need them to be if you’re not providing the same.

agency case studies

Aug

16

2016

The Biggest Opportunities for Agencies in 4 Charts

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You’ve heard this common theme repeated by your parents, your teachers, your managers … even your significant others: It’s up to you to take ahold of the opportunities presented and make something of them.

The problem is that opportunities usually equal choosing the hard thing. It’s much easier to stay constant on the current path, walking with the wind rather than against it. 

But as Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” 

And when it comes to your business, there are a lot of difficulties that equal big opportunities. However, when you’re in the middle of it, it’s not easy to recognize or focus on what actually matters — it’s that whole “can’t see the forest for the trees” conundrum. 

We pulled a few stats from our Agency Pricing & Financials Report that detail how agencies price their services, manage their firms, sell, and service their clients to highlight a few issues that, if improved, could equal significant opportunities for agencies as they work toward growth, stability, or higher profitability. 

Download the full report here or view a few of the interesting charts below.

4 Revealing Charts on Agency Business Practices

1) 57% of agencies win less than 50% of proposals sent.

Depending on how in-depth your agency’s proposals are — the length, the amount of research you do, how much you give away (i.e., the strategy), and design — creating a proposal can be a time-consuming and arduous process. It might take you two hours, eight hour, or upwards of 40, depending on the requests of the prospect. 

And all of that time is arguably wasted if you don’t win. 

That’s why it’s so concerning to see that a majority of agencies don’t win even half of the proposals they create. 

Increasing the conversion rates of your proposals by improving your sales process should be a priority. And this all starts with understanding what types of clients actually want to buy your services — what makes a prospect a good fit. By having the right qualifying questions, you can increase the time you spend with prospects who would benefit and see the value of your services and spend less time writing proposals that are ignored or irrelevant.  

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2) 44% of agencies don’t use a CRM, and 42% haven’t defined their ideal client. 

That many agencies don’t use a CRM and have yet to identify which clients are a good fit for their agency and services further supports the low conversion rate on proposals. In the survey, we also asked how satisfied respondents were with their sales process: Only 28% were satisfied or very satisfied, while 41% were not satisfied or very dissatisfied. Even more confusing is the 31% who responded as “neutral,” signaling a lack of concern or worry about growth.

I’m not saying that every agency needs to be highly focused on gaining more and more and more new clients. In fact, the opposite is often recommended. You can grow by building a roster of 10 or 20 highly profitable client accounts that provides your team with the opportunity to do highly rewarding work.

But without a sales process — and an understanding of who these future profitable clients are, how they think about marketing, what they value, etc. — then you’re simply chasing one account after another.

And without a tool or system for tracking prospects, you could be losing out on valuable business you’ve already invested hundreds of hours in. If you’re marketing your agency right, the clients you really want should already know about you. And even if they’re not ready to switch shops today, they should think of you when they do begin to look around. A CRM can help you to stay in touch with these people — something that old Excel file can’t yet handle. 

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3) Agencies fail to track future-looking metrics.

Without tracking the right financial metrics, agencies can’t truly understand the health of their business. And while it’s necessary to track revenue and profit numbers, these only tell the story of how well the company is doing today, not tomorrow or next week or three months from now.

Metrics such as leads generated and client satisfaction provide more forward-looking information. By tracking average client tenure, you can spot clients at-risk of leaving before you get that dreaded phone call or request for an urgent in-person meeting. 

It also doesn’t reveal the opportunities for greater efficiencies. Do you know how much your agency is losing due to overservicing? Do you understand which client accounts are profitable? And which ones are costing you money? 

If the utilization rate for your agency is too low, then maybe your firm has become top heavy, with too many non-billable employees in management. If you’re employee satisfaction score is low and turnover is high, what’s causing this? 

As I hope the above shows, these metrics are only the starting points for more in-depth conversation and analysis, but they will help guide you to new information and possibly a solution. Otherwise, you’re simply running in the dark toward revenue and profit numbers.  

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4) Agencies are too reliant on referrals and word of mouth.

It’s no surprise that referrals are listed as the best source of new leads for agency new business. And referrals are valuable — we know that referrals convert at a higher rate and have a higher lifetime value

However, by relying on referrals too heavily, agencies are essentially putting their new business development in the hands of their clients — some who are happy and some who are not. And referrals don’t scale as well as many other methods, such as focusing on lead generation through blogging, social media, PR, and events. 

In addition, referrals are influenced by things such as public speaking, publishing educational content, the professionalism of your web presence, etc., so it’s important to create a sustainable plan for marketing your agency and driving both referrals and new connections with clients outside your current sphere of influence.

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What are the biggest opportunities for improvement in your agency? Let us know in the comments below!

pricing-report-cta

Aug

3

2016

The Agency Pricing & Financials Report [New Data]

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What KPIs are other agency owners tracking? What should my profit margin be? How many clients do I need to make $X per year? What sources generate the most and best leads?

These are just a few of the common questions agency owners and leaders ask themselves.

Leading an agency is a challenging pursuit — it’s a different type of business with its own set of rules, language, and best practices. 

To help you better understand how agencies price, manage, sell, market, and deliver to clients, we conducted a survey during April and May of this year, with more than 750 agency executives responding to our questions.

The results reveal common problems and challenges agency owners face and industry best practices. In addition, we’ve included essays from six industry experts who detail how agencies can improve their financial management, business development practices, and more. 

Download the report below to better understand how to build a profitable and stable agency.

pricing-report-cta

Jul

28

2016

7 Common Mistakes That Make Clients Ignore Your Emails

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Every day, 112.4 billion business emails fly around the world. That’s 122 emails sent and received every day per person. Despite the growth of other online communication channels, email continues to multiply. Which means people (including client-type people) are searching for reasons to ignore emails that don’t need their attention so they can focus on messages and tasks that do.

If your clients are responding in a timely manner, or not responding at all, the problem may well be that your emails are terrible. 

7 Common Email Mistakes That Cause Clients to Ignore You

1) Not Being Clear and Specific About What You Want

What is the purpose of your email? Have you made it obvious to the reader? Perhaps people you email don’t reply back to you because they don’t know you’re expecting anything back from them.

Whatever you need — a decision, a file, a commitment — ask for it, and let them know by when you need it. If no response is needed because you’re just sharing an update, let them know that too.

You might think you’re asking for exactly what you need, but people still aren’t responding. Keep reading. Can they find your request amid everything else in the rest of your email? Do they know you’re expecting them, not someone else, to act?

2) TL;DR – Too Long; Didn’t Read

We’ve all gotten these emails. When we see massive blocks of text, we feel exhausted just at the thought of having to parse it for whatever is important. You’re not reading them. Why do you expect your clients to?

Excise the fluff. Get rid of all the qualifier words, such as I was hoping, if you could, when you have some time, etc.

You can also remove the extensive retelling of whatever the broader issue is. Definitely, provide enough context in your email so the recipient knows what you’re talking about, but only as it relates to the specific need of this email. And keep it brief.

Whatever you’re writing, use shorter sentences and simpler words. If you absolutely must write a lot, use short paragraphs, bullet lists, and white space to avoid the appearance of a word tsunami.

3) Copying Too Many People

There are two main dangers to copying too many people on your emails when it comes to getting an answer.

First, no one is responding or getting you what you need because they’re assuming someone else on the thread is taking care of it. Call it a permutation of the “bystander effect.”

Second, copying too many people is an email habit. If you do it, you probably do it a lot. Which means you’ve taught people that you often send emails that aren’t relevant to them or need their response. You’ve trained them to put your emails in the low priority category.

4) Sending too Many Emails or Prolonging Email Threads

Closely related to copying too many people, constantly sending emails or irrelevant reply emails, teaches people the same lesson. Everyone has someone’s name they dread seeing pop up in their inbox. Don’t be that person.

If you want clients to respond to your emails, make sure your emails are substantive.

 

5) Bad Subject Lines

The rules of email marketing apply to business email. A great email buried under a rotten subject line isn’t going to get the attention it deserves. Your email subject lines need to be concise and action-oriented.

Since so many people are sorting through emails on their phones, write your subject lines to work on mobile as well. The same applies to the first line of your email. If that is all they see in a preview pane (on mobile or desktop), use it to give them a reason to keep reading.

Here’s a nice refresher on how to write a five star subject line.

6) Bad Manners

Writing short and direct emails doesn’t require forsaking all forms of civilized behavior. An email that says nothing but “send me ebook feedback today” is direct and concise. But who wants to respond to that?

Basic letter etiquette still applies, like including a greeting and a sign-off. Email also has its own etiquette worth following, so lose the ALL CAPS. Also, people are seriously put off by bad grammar in emails.

People like helping out nice people. So be nice.

7) Email Wasn’t the Right Mode of Communication

We have lots of ways to communicate with clients — email is merely one option. For some needs, it’s not the best option. Quick questions may be better suited to text or a chat app. Some issues require a thoughtful, give-and-take discussion that email can’t accommodate. It may be worth it to pick up the phone or have a video chat. This is especially true if the discussion will involve a number of people.

We have a number of social technologies that provide alternate means of communication. Your goal is to get a response, not another email. Before sending the email, consider if it’s the communication method that will most efficiently get you what you need.

client-agency-checklist

Jul

19

2016

5 Costly Mistakes New Agency Owners Make

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You started your own agency because you wanted a different type of lifestyle — you wanted to build something of your own. You were sick of the lack of creativity in the work at your company, and the singular focus on margins and profits were draining your love for the industry. 

But running your own agency — whether it’s just you or you’ve hired a few or more people — is a completely different challenge. Now, you’re responsible for everything, from the work to the happiness of clients to hiring to the state of your bill with the electric company. 

And you’ve run into a few too many troublesome situations in your adventure in building an agency — ones you wish you could have avoided.

To prevent making the same mistakes as many others new to ownership, check out these common problems. 

5 Common Mistakes New Agency Owners Make 

1) Not getting a contract signed before starting work.

Many new agency owners are working on projects from friends or friends of friends. Others are simply too afraid of losing the deal to ask a prospect to sign on the dotted line. And some simply get comfortable after the third or fourth project, and they think a legal document is no longer necessary: The client has paid up before with no problems. What could happen to make that change?

They forgo this step until one day, they get completely burned by a client who won’t answer their calls and definitely won’t pay up.

The key is making the contract a seamless part of the sales process. Whether you are a one-person agency or a 25-person shop, the contract should be an essential step prior to starting any work. It confirms that the client is committed to the project, and it clarifies payment terms and schedules. It should also outline the scope so that it is clear what’s included in the project and what’s not.

It protects both you and your client, and it will help you avoid clients who might take advantage of your status as an inexperienced business owner.

2) Discounting projects from the start.

Many agency owners just starting out are hungry for new business and for clients with whom they can do amazing work.

And so before the client even asks for a discount or says that the price is outside of their budget, they start chipping away at their bid. Or in an effort to make sure they win the project, they slash their rates and come in way under the normal price.

By starting out the relationship and saying “My work is not worth the price I set,” you’re losing credibility with the client from the start. It can also be seen as desperate by a client who knows you’ll do whatever it takes to work with them.

3) Letting emotions get in the way.

You left your day job and convinced your family to trust in you as you pursue your desire to run your own agency. This is your future. And everything is personal to you.

But to most of your clients, it’s not personal. And you need to remember this fact when you become frustrated about a missed client deadline that pushes back the launch — and your payment — by another month or when you feel hurt by the client’s lack of response to your carefully crafted proposal.

It’s far too easy for new agency owners to want to vent these feelings in an email or during a call when business interactions don’t go the way they think they should. However, this is a business where your reputation matters. Burning bridges won’t help you lay a strong foundation for future growth.

4) Not setting realistic timelines.

When trying to sell a client on a project, it’s easy to want to over-promise: “Sure, we can do that website redesign in three weeks. No problem at all.” Unless you and your team skip eating, sleeping, and doing anything else in that timeframe, it’s unlikely you can meet that deadline. But the client wants it in three weeks. You need to do whatever takes to deliver. You’re in the client service business, right?

Wrong. This attitude will only result in you delivering either shoddy work or missing deadlines — two serious problems that will put the relationship at risk.

Get ahead of this curve by telling clients up front the minimum amount of time required to turn around specific projects. Stick to these timelines. If you deliver more quickly, then you’ll have an even happier client. If you can’t meet the deadline with your current workload, maybe it’s time to hire another employee or work with a freelancer, or maybe you just need to say “no” to more client work.

Don’t overwhelm your team by taking on too much and over-promising on the time it takes to create quality, results-oriented work.

5) Never saying “no” to client work. 

You want to get your agency’s name out there, and that means it can be difficult to say to a prospect, “I don’t do that,” or “That’s not my area of expertise.”

So you just say “yes” instead and hope that you can find a freelancer who can do the work within the budget you proposed. While outsourcing work is a normal practice, you need to be able to vouch for the freelancer’s quality of work — at the end of the day, it’s ultimately your responsibility. That’s a risky way to begin any new relationship and make a name for your agency. 

client-intake-download

Jul

13

2016

How to Design an Employee Mentorship Program That Doesn’t Suck

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Whether you’ve worked in the industry for 25 years or two years, it can be difficult to navigate the complexities of a career. This includes figuring out the internal politics, processes, and opportunities that drive growth within a company and the small steps and education that lead to defining the different stages of a person’s professional career.

Making decisions about both of these paths benefit from having a mentorsomeone who can be a guide, a motivator, and an advocate. And it’s a smart investment for companies to make: According to a study by Jerry Wilbur, mentoring is a significant predictor of career success. Mentees earn more money and experience more satisfaction in their work.

Yet, few agencies consider the impact or invest resources in mentorship programs that can increase employee motivation, happiness, and most importantly, retention. Attrition in agencies is especially problematic. According to a recent study by the 4A’s and LinkedIn, the rate of turnover at agencies increased 10% compared to competitive industries. The report also found that 54% of agency employees left because they were concerned about the opportunities for advancement in their current position.

Creating a Mentorship Program

A clear career path is important but also is the idea that the company you are working for is invested in your professional growth and development. It was this core concept that spurred MEC, a global media agency with around 650 employees in the U.S., to launch a formal mentorship program in March.

“Everything we do is to make sure that our employees feel engaged and rewarded and motivated to stay — our intention and our purpose is in keeping great people as long as we can keep them,” said Kristen Metzger, who is the managing partner of people and culture at MEC.

MEC faces a competitive marketplace like so many in the industry, and Metzger believes that those agencies that offer better guidance around long-term goal planning and foster stronger relationships between team members are in a better position to attract and retain talent. If an employee leaves because he says he didn’t know what his career path at the company looked like, then that’s “shame on us,” she said.

In addition, mentorship programs help solve a few common employee frustrations:

Give employees a feedback loop outside of the traditional routes.

There are some questions you want to ask but that just would make for an awkward encounter with your manager. This is typically more important for new hires; however, navigating the internal politics, culture, traditions, and relationships in a new company can be the most complex part of adjusting to and succeeding in a new role. When you have a mentor who is removed from judging your performance, it makes it easier to ask those questions, vent about small things, and open up about fears, worries, and the inevitable stumbles.

Reveal a different side of the company.

Retaining top talent requires some creativity when it comes to growth. Some individuals are happy to stay in the same position for five or more years, while others want movement and new challenges to remain happy. By pairing a person up with someone from another department or team, you are exposing the employee to new knowledge about the way the business is run, people with different ideas and perspectives about the industry, and new opportunities. This is especially important for people who may love the company but have found out that they are just not passionate about their current position.

Increase motivation and performance.

A Society for Human Resource Management survey of managers found that only 2% were providing quarterly or ongoing feedback to employees. People crave feedback, and they need it more than once or twice a year. They want recognition of their efforts and advice on how to improve. And a mentor can provide some of that missing validation and guidance when someone is craving more interactions with peers or people they see an experts. Mentors can provide that push to employees to not only perform better in their current positions but to also take on learning something new, pursuing a side project, or getting involved in industry events.

How to Implement a Mentorship Program That Actually Works

Mentorship is a vague term, which hasn’t helped to improve its credibility. But when done right — when it’s something people actually want to participate in and are given the tools to do so in an effective way — a mentor-mentee matchup can provide huge dividends to the people involved in the program and the company as a whole.

MEC’s program, which has 88 participants, followed these tenets when launching its program:

1) Match people by interests or what they want to achieve.

Metzger and her team started by sending out a survey to employees to vet who was interested in being a mentor and who would like to be a mentee. Many people had asked for a formal program like this, but they needed to better understand what specifically employees would find valuable and useful. The survey included a list of 15 possible topics people would like to engage with a mentor or mentee on — from digital fluency to career development to conflict resolution to work-life balance to mobile media.

She wanted people to see the mentorship program as a learning opportunity and a way for people to gain experiences outside of their departments.

Ildi Conrad, the director of learning at MEC, said there were three key themes that emerged from the survey results: 1) People want general guidance on career development and to network with other people in the company. 2) Employees, especially junior-level employees, want to learn more about the media industry, the various jobs available, and the career opportunities they should consider. 3) People want to gain knowledge about a specific area of the business or learn a new skill that would benefit their career.

The survey also asked people to detail what they would like to get out of the program and the qualities they would like to see in a mentor.

“We matched them on a personal basis,” Metzger said. “We literally sat with all of the results of the surveys and paired people together who were like-minded, had similar interests, and wanted similar things out of the relationship.”

While there are automated ways to do this type of matching, Metzger felt that it was important to hand-select the pairs to create the best matchups.

For example: One junior-level female mentee wanted career development advice and was looking to be matched with someone with broader business experience. Metzger’s team paired her with a senior female leader who manages one of the agency’s largest accounts and previously spent time on the client side. Metzger said they’ve spent a lot of time talking about the different opportunities in the media industry and the career paths available, empowering the mentee to take ownership of her career journey.

2) Don’t force it, but make it serious.

MEC didn’t make the mentorship program a mandatory activity for employees, but it did require that mentors and mentees make a serious commitment to the relationship. All pairs signed a “contract” that stated they would make the program a priority and honor their commitments to one another.

Metzger has heard of only one pair who faced challenges meeting frequently and has connected with them to determine how the two would like to proceed with the relationship. The key is to not to force something on people if things aren’t working — they need to decide together if the pace is manageable and address changes that need to be made to make the meetings valuable. Either way, it must be their decision, she said.

3) Empower the mentee to take charge.

At MEC, the mentee is responsible for setting the time and date of the meetings. And they gave each mentee a Starbucks coffee card so they could be seen as the one “taking out” their mentor, providing a cup of coffee for a valuable advice and conversation.

“We want the mentee to feel empowered and to make sure that they understand that they also own the relationship,” said Metzger. “We wanted to make sure that the mentee, who was really leaning in and asking for this, was equally if not more responsible for making sure that it happens.”

The card also encourages pairs to get out of the office where they can have less formal and more private conversations.

4) Create structure, but not too much.

For a mentorship program to work, it needs to be flexible enough to evolve with the relationship, but it also needs some boundaries and requirements to maintain momentum.

In the contract mentorship pairs signed, it provides a simple framework: Pairs should meet once per month for a year. Already stated was the encouragement to meet off-site, and the survey helped people to pre-determine what they wanted to learn from the meetings.

In addition, the people and culture team sends a monthly email newsletter to participants, highlighting news, articles, and resources that can spark conversations for their one-on-one conversations and encourage personal growth. For example, an initial email highlighted the importance of goal setting specific to the mentoring relationship, while another provided guidance on asking open-ended questions that would spark productive conversations. 

5) Allow opportunities for reverse mentoring.

“I think it’s important to note that the mentor mentee relationship is not necessarily senior versus junior,” Metzger said.

For some, the launch of the mentorship program was a way to learn something new from someone who is on the “front lines.”

Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of MEC North America, applied for the mentorship program stating that she “wanted to connect with today’s tech-savvy generation to better understand how they are truly using and connecting with new and emerging tools and technology.” She joked that her mentor would have to be open to “teaching an old dog some new tricks.”

Kaplowitz was paired with a director on the activation team and the reverse mentoring matchup has been beneficial for both partners involved. It shows there are opportunities for employees to engage with and share knowledge not just across teams or from the top of the corporate ladder.

While Kaplowitz’s involvement was purely voluntary, it is a good idea to get senior leadership involved in any type of formal program. It shows the team that this is a priority for the agency and that there should be no end to learning and professional development for employees.

Retaining the Best

Creating a mentorship program is an investment in the future of your team members. You’re giving them the opportunity to better understand what they want for their career, to see your company through the perspective of someone either more senior or junior, and the chance to improve their understanding of the industry and develop additional skills.

It’s about creating new personal connections that can go a long way when your top performers are considering what their next career step looks like and if it includes continuing to contribute to your agency’s success.

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Jul

12

2016

From Proposal Requests to Getting Approvals: 6 Email Templates to Make Agency Communication Easier

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When you’ve got an important email to write, it can seemingly take hours. You write, revise, delete, and agonize over every word, link, and even your email signature

And if you are selling your staff’s time in the form of the billable hour, this can be a huge waste of resources. 

While we’re talking about one-on-one communication, it’s a worthwhile pursuit to create a library of canned email responses or templates that your team can use for specific activities or in response to clients. It ensures that the communication from your team is clear and consistent, makes it easier to respond to requests more quickly, and removes the uncertainty that junior staffers feel when dealing with a difficult situation.

Below you’ll find a starting point for building out your library of email templates that can be customized. Use these to make your client communication more efficient.

6 Email Templates for Communicating With Clients

1) When a Prospect Requests a Proposal

Next steps

Hi [First Name],

Thank you for your interest in [Agency]. We’ve worked with many companies that have struggled with [Key Challenge]. You can read up on the successes of our previous relationships here [Link] and here [Link].

We don’t create proposals at this point in the process as we’re a results-driven agency, meaning we need to better understand your business, challenges, and needs to be able to determine if and how we can help. Because of this focus, we only take on a certain number of new accounts per year — those clients who we are confident we can produce results for.  

I’d love to schedule a call or in-person meeting to learn more about your marketing and sales goals for the year, your current marketing activities, and how our agency could work to improve results for [Company Name].

Here are a few dates and times that would work for us.

  • [Date and Time]
  • [Date and Time]
  • [Date and Time]

Looking forward to chatting.

Best,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

2) When a Client Requests Out-of-Scope Work

>
RE: Additional Content Projects

Hi [First Name],

Thanks for sending over the information on the additional content pieces you would like us to create prior to the launch of the new website. It’s a great idea, and I think they will add a lot of value to visitors who are unfamiliar with your brand and products.

I’ve gone ahead and updated the scope of work [Link or Attach] to include these two new content projects, which you will see reflected in the revised quote. The price for the additional content offers comes to [$X,000]. Take a look, and let me know if you have any questions. Once you approve, I’ll add those two projects to [Project Management Tool] where you’ll be able to review and track the timeline for completion and approvals.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

3) To Send Over a Project for Approval

>
Website Redesign Comps

Hi [First Name],

I hope you’re ready!

The team just finished up the design comps for the redesign of the homepage, and I’m so excited to show them off to you. I think you’ll find that while the two versions are very different, they both solve the problem of your visitors failing to understand how easy to implement your solution is.

But first, we want to highlight a few things from the approved creative brief to set the stage:

  • [Target audience]
  • [The problem the design should solve]
  • [The action viewers should take]
  • [The emotion/feeling people should have when viewing]

Now, here are the design mockups with an accompanying description of why we made certain decisions.

  • Version 1 [Link]
  • Version 2 [Link]

After viewing these, please let us know if you have any opinions on the following for each design:

  • What’s memorable?
  • Which do you think will appeal more to your target audience?
  • Is the messaging in line with the needs/challenges of your visitors?
  • Is the call to action compelling and clear? Could we do anything to improve this?
  • Which one do you think will perform better with your target visitors?

As we mentioned in our last meeting, we think it would be valuable to do a heat mapping test on these two version to determine which converts at a higher rate. Here’s a [Link] to the description of the project and price for that test.

If you’d like to have a call to discuss this, click here [Link to Online Booking Calendar] to schedule time on my calendar.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

4) To Follow Up With a Client

>
Following up on the design comps

Hi [First Name],

I wanted to follow up with you to see if you have any feedback on the design comps I sent over late last week. Please let me know if you have any suggestions/questions or inform me of your approval of one of the designs.

To meet the requested launch day of [Date], we will need at least [# of Days or Weeks] for development and testing. If I don’t receive your approval by [Date], we’ll have to push back beginning on Phase II of the project, which will impact the final delivery date.

I’ll follow up by phone if I don’t hear from you by tomorrow morning.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

5) When You Need to Push a Deadline

Important information on the website launch date 

Hi [First Name],

I’m checking in with some news on the project. Everything looks really good right now, as you saw during our check-in last week, but we actually encountered a problem that will impact the original launch date. We’re not going to be able to meet the original due date because of [List Reasons]. While this is something we discussed was a risk factor that could impact the launch date during the project scoping, we were hoping it could be avoided. We’re doing everything we can to minimize the impact, including [State Actions Taken].

Based on the timeline of the vendor, I’ve adjusted the milestones, including your review and approval dates, in [Project Management Tool]. The new final delivery date is set for [Date].

I apologize for any negative consequences this may have on your schedule. I’d be happy to discuss how we can help to reduce the impact of any issues due to the change.

Please give me a call to discuss this further if you’d like, or you can schedule a time with me here [Link to Online Booking Calendar].

Best,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

6) To Ask for a Testimonial

RE: June Results

Hi [First Name],

I was very happy to see the results of the analysis of the website redesign’s impact on Q3 marketing and sales — as I’m sure you were.

On that note, I was wondering if you would give us permission to showcase the project on our website. And if so, would you be able to write 4-5 sentences that describes your experience working with us: What did you like working with us? What results have you seen? Why will other clients like you enjoy working with our team? We’d love to feature the project, your testimonial, and your name/headshot in a call out on our site. If you’d like some inspiration, here are a few examples [Link] of kind words from previous clients.

Let me know if you have questions or need more information. We really enjoyed working with you on this project.

Thanks,

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

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Jul

7

2016

9 Useful Strategies for Getting Clients to Pay On Time

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Everyone’s trying to manage their cash flow. But no matter how buttoned up you might be in your process, it still could mean clients pay late, which messes with your cash flow and stability.

Here are nine strategies to make sure your clients are ready and able to pay your agency’s invoices on time:

1) Watch for Red Flag Clients

They always give themselves away, even if we decide to overlook the signs in the effort to get a new client signed. They’re overly focused on price, or poorly organized. Or worse, they have a generally unpleasant attitude that’s going to make working with them difficult.

These are the kinds of clients with a high likelihood of not paying on time. Your best strategy is to avoid them if possible. Weigh how well this potential client fits into your agency’s goals against their potential maintenance costs, including late payments.

If you decide their potential outweighs the risks, you can use many of the other strategies discussed here to mitigate the challenge.

2) Set Clear Terms in the Contract

Nobody like surprises, least of all when they’re being asked to part with their money. Your contract should clearly spell out key payment terms: when invoices will be sent, when they’re due, how payment will be made, what your late payment penalties are, etc.

3) Make It Easy for Clients to Pay You

If the client says they have a preferred payment method use — let them use it. You can negotiate your payment method flexibility as part of your service. There are multiple services that let make it easy for any business to accept ACH, credit card, PayPal, or EFT transfers. Sign up with one so you have that flexibility.

And if their preferred payment method is still by paper check, let them do so — as long as the checks arrive on time. If they don’t, then you can move onto one of these other strategies, such as auto-payments from a credit card.

4) Move to Electronic Invoicing and Payment

Again, you have a lot a of choices of online invoicing and payment tools.

Many of the online invoicing tools let you create a client portal where people can see all their past and current invoices. Now, your clients have no excuse (“Your invoice didn’t arrive”). They always know where to find their latest invoice and can’t blame technology for miscommunication. 

And when you integrate an electronic payment option into your invoice, then clients can pay as soon as they open the invoice. It’s simple and easy. Some invoicing tools will let your clients store their payment information so they don’t need to re-enter it for each invoice. Others have automated payment options — with your client’s permission of course.

Electronic invoicing makes preparing and sending invoices easy for you. A client can’t pay on time any invoice that’s sent late.

5) Bill New Clients a Deposit to Get Started

This is more than just a goodwill gesture and hedge against a potential flaky client. It lets you and the client iron out any invoicing or payment wrinkles that might come up early. Getting paid your deposit verifies that all mechanisms are successfully in place for this client to pay you on time.

Often payments are delayed due to administrative snafus. Get all this cleared up during the client onboarding process.

6) Eliminate Missing, Confusing, or Ambiguous Information in Your Invoice

At the start of the relationship, have clients specify what information they need on their end to pay an invoice. Do they need a certain office street address on it, rather than one of their others? Do they have an internal PO number that’s required? Who should be getting your invoice to get it processed?

Make your invoice information clear as well. Avoid terms that need interpretation, like “net 30.” Instead, specify the exact due date so there’s no confusion. Make sure the bottom line total and line items are easy to find and understand. It should be easy for the client to understand exactly why they’re getting billed the bottom line amount.

7) Include Your Late Payment Terms as Boilerplate on Each Invoice

This gentle reminder of the interest rate or fees that would be due for late payments has encouraged many a client to pay on time.

8) Invoice More Often

Don’t let a large amount of outstanding billables accrue. If you need to bill a client every two weeks, do it.

9) Move the Client to a Retainer Contract

Nothing beats pre-payment for services to be rendered. For the sake of predictability and reinforcing the relationship between your agency and clients, moving them to a retainer contract should always be a goal.

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Jul

5

2016

6 Important Questions to Ask Before Your Agency Grows

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Many agency leaders think the path to success is through growth. Grow bigger, grow faster, and don’t look back. 

But do they have the right business practices in place to actually achieve this? And are they prepared for the inevitable changes that occur as a company gets larger?

6 Questions to Ask Before Your Agency Grows 

1) How do you want to grow?

What do you want your agency to look like in a few years? There are two main approaches to growth, and they look very different.

For one type of firm, you can grow through increased sales — or growing by volume. You bring on lots of clients, and hire more people to service those clients. Client accounts will most likely be smaller, and the firm will be more concerned with productivity and the profitability of projects.

You can also grow through the size of your accounts, taking on fewer clients and focusing on longer engagements and less tactical or project-based work. For this type of growth to occur, the agency needs to be committed to a strong positioning as well as be able to showcase its value to obtain more revenue from clients. The agency may only need to win a few key accounts each year to replace leaving clients.

2) Are your current hiring practices in line with your future agency?

As you grow, your agency changes. Your clients’ needs evolve. And you need more people to manage, train, and lead different teams. While some might rely on hiring for the role when they reach that size, most owners want to develop leadership skills in the people who have been with them when the team could easily fit in one room for a meeting. A key external hire — someone with a specific skill set and experience — can benefit the agency’s growth; however, you’ll have a hard time retaining people in the long-run if you fail to create a path of advancement for your current employees.

That means that you need to begin developing a bench of future leaders, and that requires a different approach to hiring and training. In the past, you might have simply been concerned about whether or not the candidate can do the job or be trained to complete the work. Now, you need to consider other qualities in top performers, such as emotional intelligence, interest in long-term career growth and management, and if the person has skills that challenge the team. You’re looking for someone who will add to the overall talent of the team, rather than simply fit into a vacant seat.

3) How will you attract the right type of clients?

When you’re just starting out, your agency could thrive on word-of-mouth, referrals, and projects from local companies. But if you want to grow, you’ll need to tap a new group of prospects — and do so in a sustainable way.

And it means you need to think differently about your company. Why would someone located 1,000 miles away want to work with your agency? What facts would make a prospect say, “I only want to work with your firm”? What do you need to change about the way you market your agency? Or do you need to actually start building your brand?

4) What does your sales process look like?

A lot of time is wasted on lunch meetings, calls with “prospects” who simply want to learn a few marketing tips, and proposals that never even reach a decision-maker.

This wasted time could be better spent with prospects that actually want to work with your agency and that your agency wants to work with — you know you can provide value to the client, the account will be profitable, and your team members will enjoy working with the client.

But without a sales process, it’s easy to get distracted by this prospect or that project. Without a goal, you’ll always be running towards a finish line, yet the line will keep moving.

By defining your sales process with steps and processes for qualifying clients, prospecting, closing, and upselling, you’ll be able to more quickly and efficiently grow.

5) How will your role change?

As the company grows, many agency owners struggle with the fact that they can’t be everywhere and do everything. In the beginning, they were involved in every client account, approved all the creative, tracked financials, and made the final decision for all hires.

This isn’t possible as your agency grows — leaders have to make themselves irrelevant. And you need to take some time to figure out if this is really what you want. Do you want to be able to scale your influence on a larger team and client base? Or do you more enjoy the day-to-day management and involvement in your clients’ accounts? These are two different types of businesses, and it’s worth considering what type of company you actually want to build, rather than growing for growth’s sake.

6) Is your approach to creating work repeatable and consistent?

Finally, to scale you need to create, document, and train people on your processes. Without a way to create and deliver work on time and profitably, you can’t scale. To retain clients, you can’t miss deadlines or deliver poor quality work. New employees need to be properly trained and onboarded to deliver a consistent experience to clients. While it might be fun to “figure things out as you go,” it doesn’t lead to creating a growing and stable company. 

Jun

29

2016

The New Client Intake Form [Free Template for Agencies]

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It might be hard to admit: Not every prospect is a good fit for your agency. 

Some don’t have the budget. Some need a mindset shift. And some simply won’t see the value of your services. 

Yet, many agencies don’t find this out until much later in the sales process, sometimes after they have already sent over an in-depth proposal. 

You shouldn’t be spending the same amount of time on every prospective client who calls you up to ask for your help or fills out a form on your website. To understand which clients are the right fit, you need to ask the right questions. This will help you understand if the prospect is in line with your ideal client profile, will be a profitable and successful relationship, and has a strong desire to solve their problem. 

To start qualifying prospects and gain a better understanding of their wants and needs, download the New Client Intake Form. It will help you get started as you evaluate if a potential client is actually worth your time. 

Jun

28

2016

Why Clients Undervalue Your Agency (And How to Make It Stop)

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In Lady Windermere’s Fan, one of Oscar Wilde’s characters describes the cynic as someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

It’s fair to call CEOs and CFOs cynics when it comes to their marketing budgets. Rarely do client-side decision makers report to their fellow C-suiters the value your agency provides. In the end, that usually means you aren’t communicating your value well, or strongly, enough.

Either way, it’s a problem when clients are more focused on your invoices than your services.

Nothing Is More Valuable Than Perceived Value

If you reduce a client’s cost per lead and neither your client nor her C-suite knows it — has it really happened? (It’s the same old “does a falling tree make a sound in the forest when you’re not there?” conundrum.) Your clients’ perceived value of your services exerts significant influence on their perception of you and their decision about whether to stay with your agency (or not).

In one famous study out of Stanford University, participants were given two glasses of the same exact wine, except they were told that one glass was from a $5 bottle of wine while the other was from a $45 bottle of wine. Guess which wine they thought tasted better?

It works both ways. While price can be used to boost perceived value, increasing perceived value first can be used to validate higher pricing, expand relationships, or move to (higher) retainer agreements.

Perceived value results from clearly understood and relevant quantifiable and qualitative factors. Fortunately, your agency has serious power to shape how your clients perceive your agency’s value.

Start With the Metrics

Perceived value is much broader than quantifiable ROI, but it’s certainly a necessary part. Especially when it comes to helping your client contacts chat up your value to their C-suite colleagues.

Regular reporting and communication of the tangible benefits your work provides should be standard account management practice. Focus on the metrics that provide the greatest value back to the client.

To do this well, your account managers and agency leadership need to understand each client’s vision of success. There’s a lot of good advice out there to hone in on revenue-based metrics, such as lifetime value and cost of acquisition (ignore the vanity metrics of shares and likes). In general, this is good advice for most clients.

But what about the client whose priority is to show traction through a growing user base? This client is seeking a first round of venture capital funding, so showing proof of concept is far more important than showing paying customers.

Prove your value with metrics. But first make sure they’re the right metrics. They must align with that specific client’s goals and priorities. When you show this sort of genuine and individualized attention, it impacts another factor influencing your perceived value — the overall customer experience your agency provides.

Customer Experience Is More Than Customer Service

Being responsive and helpful is great customer service. But you’ve got to go further and create a superlative client experience that demonstrates high value: Value that differentiates your agency from all your competitors. Value that no other agency can even come close to touching.

In the context of perceived value, the more useful questions are: How do your clients experience their relationship with your agency? Where does your agency fall in the “order taker versus strategic partner” dichotomy?

After all, great marketing is all about spot-on positioning, right?

Move away from the order-taker bucket and increase your perceived value by placing your services in context. This could mean providing clients more in-depth insight into:

  • Their own competitive landscape and where your ideas and/or results fall within that context
  • The level of expertise your team uses to design and execute a campaign or strategy
  • How your team’s work frees them to focus on their core functions and operations

If You Don’t Value Your Team, Your Clients Won’t Either 

While you take steps to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your value to clients, make sure you’re not undermining your efforts with other actions that send the opposite message.

For example, don’t discount your rates. You can negotiate, but don’t agree (or offer) price cuts. If a client has a genuine budget issue, then negotiate on issues like scope of services, extended timelines, or accelerated payment milestones. Agreeing to a price cut without getting anything of value in return tells the client they should have been paying the lower rate all along.

Indeed, you should be setting your rates on a value basis, not a cost basis. There are numerous ways to do this, but the general premise of value-based pricing is to set your rates based on the value your work has for the client, not the cost-plus-profit it represents to you.

Bake higher perceived value right into the cake at the start. Set your rates based on your client’s perceived value. If you know that a new customer means $200,000 in the first year of sales to your client, wouldn’t a $120,000 per year retainer be a bargain to him if you can deliver enough quality leads that he can close at least one customer?

Setting value-based pricing forces your agency to get very clear on what kind of value work will deliver for a client, which makes it much easier to communicate that value back to your client.

Then once the client agrees to your value-based pricing and you start delivering the value you promised, they’ll think what a great deal they got. And that’s precisely what you want your clients to think.

Jun

27

2016

Why You Should Never Email a Proposal

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Your team has spent hours researching, writing, and refining a proposal your prospect was eager to receive.

Now, you are staring at your email account in frustration as you write your third follow-up email in as many weeks.

What could have caused this disappearing act? Was it the content of the proposal? Did the client get cold feet?

When this happens, some people even begin to imagine outlandish reasons why the prospect has failed to respond, such as a month-long vacation (she forgot to tell you about) to a location with no internet access. Maybe the prospect unexpectedly left the company but forgot to update her LinkedIn account (not that you were checking on a daily basis)? Maybe her email account was hacked, and she’s been forced to revert to paper communication and homing pigeons?

It’s possible … right?

The Real Problem Isn’t About Email

The issues illustrated above don’t occur because of the method of proposal delivery — though email is probably not the best way to communicate something of such importance to your business. Rather, the problem begins during the sales process.

For starters, if you are simply responding to the client’s comment — even if they seemed earnest in their request — that they would love to see a proposal, you’re wasting time. From the beginning, you’re putting your agency in a position of lower authority, which will destroy any negotiating power you initially had. In addition, you most likely have little insight into what the client’s challenges, needs, and goals are — or should be — resulting in a proposal that has little chance at converting the prospect due to its irrelevance to their pain points. 

The rush to write a proposal and the resulting frustration due to a lack of feedback or even a simple “no” is the result of a non-existent sales process or one that is driven by the client’s wants, rather than the agency’s attempt to qualify and drive the right type of new business.

How to Define the Sales Process

You can’t automate the sales process, but you can make sure that you create fewer proposals that are ignored.

1) Understand Your Ideal Client

The first step is determining the attributes of the types of clients you want to work with. By creating an ideal client profile that aligns with your best types of clients, you’ll be able to screen for prospects who are simply shopping, who would be unhappy, or even worse, who would make your team members unhappy.

By focusing on the right type of client, you’ll better understand your target prospects, and you’ll increase sales and retention.

2) Create Qualifying Questions

If you understand your ideal client, you’ll be able to create questions that help you to discover who you should spend time with and who you shouldn’t. These questions can be used in lead generation forms, an intake questionnaire, or during a more formal meeting to discuss a future relationship. (Here’s a list of 26 qualifying questions to get your started, or you can review these sales qualification frameworks prior to building your own.)

These questions should move your conversation to the point where your team feels confident it can help the client overcome her challenges, providing value to the client in ways beyond simply producing work.

In addition, you should see the client’s interest and trust in your abilities increase during the process. Her tone and line of questioning should change from “Can you do this?” or “Do you have experience in this?” to “How would you overcome this challenge?” or “What has successes have you seen with other brands?”.

It’s a simple switch, but it shows that the client has gotten past the mindset of “prove to me that you can do what you say you can do” to wanting — and valuing — your advice and expertise.

3) Create a Proposal Template

Finally, you should create a simple proposal template you can use to reduce the time it takes to create the document.

Many agencies spend countless hours writing up details on the client’s challenges, the prescribed strategy, and why their agency is the right partner. While there are many differing opinions on how long and in-depth a proposal should be, the basis is that the proposal should be a written confirmation of what you have discussed. And that the client should understand this isn’t a document that will outline how exactly you will solve their problem because 1) you don’t know enough about the brand, its competitors, its problems, etc., and 2) you don’t give away your agency’s strategy prior to even winning the account.

The prospect should already know how great your team is, its track record for success from case studies, its processes, etc., so the proposal could be as simple as a one-page document with a contract attached for signing.

You should only send proposals to prospects you are certain will sign a contract. (And you should make sure you are sending it to the people who actually have the authority to sign on the dotted line.) If you’re not confident, then you need to do more work to nurture the prospect to the point where they are actually ready to review and sign a contract.

(Check out these proposal tools to make it easy to customize, track, and manage the process.)

How to Present a Proposal

Finally, when you are ready to hand over your proposal (or even better, a contract), don’t email it — at least not until you’re ready to review it with the client.

Before you even begin writing the proposal, schedule an hour meeting with the prospect to review the proposal in-person or over the phone. Make it clear that the proposal document is not the first step in the sales process, rather the last. The proposal should confirm and clarify the client’s understanding of the relationship, provide timelines and legal terms, and serve to inspire any final questions before beginning the first step in a new partnership.

If the prospect can’t commit to a one-hour meeting, that’s a sign this isn’t the right fit, and you shouldn’t waste time creating a proposal. And if the client only wants a proposal so she can price shop, then you haven’t done your job during the sales process. The price of your services should never be a surprise.

Fewer Proposals, More Contracts

Defining your own sales process, rather than letting prospects control it, is the first step to improving your proposal win rates and the types of clients your agency works with. According to research from Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association, companies with a defined sales process see 18% higher revenue growth than companies without a formal process.  

Bring your team together, and begin to document what your sales process should and could look like. And hopefully, this includes fewer proposals and more (signed) contracts.

Apr

23

2016

The Ultimate Ad Dimension Cheat Sheet for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Other Social Networks [Infographic]

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This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

People remember what they see more than what they read. This is because we’re able to comprehend visual information much more quickly than text.

This means creating highly engaging and attractive images is essential for social media success — but it’s even more important when you are running paid campaigns. Every dollar counts.

Part of creating high-performing ads is making sure your images are the correct dimensions. With varying photo and image size requirements for each social media platform and fairly frequent updates of these sizes, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date. 

To ensure you know the correct image dimensions for advertising on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, the folks at Dot Com Infoway created the infographic below. The dimensions include both desktop and mobile image sizes. You’re going to want to bookmark this as a reference for when you start your next campaign.

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Apr

19

2016

How to Sell Your Ideas

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This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

Ideas don’t sell themselves — no matter how good they are.

If you want to create the kinds of creative and marketing campaigns you’re always talking about with your colleagues — you know, the ones that push the limits of your team, show off your skills, and provide those impressive results your clients want — then you need to get better at convincing others of the value of your ideas. It’s time to embrace the persuasive skills of a salesperson.

To get your clients to say “yes” more often, follow these tips to increase your persuasive powers.

How to Sell Your Ideas

1) Make the other person comfortable.

According to Oren Klaff, author of Pitch Anything, the person you’re trying to convince has to feel at ease before you begin presenting your idea. Otherwise, you’ll never stand a chance.

“In the vast majority of cases, they don’t [feel at ease] because they don’t know how long they’re going to be stuck listening to you, and you’re a stranger,” wrote Klaff in the book. “Most people just don’t want to sit through an hour-long pitch. To put them at ease, I have a simple solution: It’s called the time-constraint pattern.”

In other words, he tells the persone exactly how long his pitch is going to be before he gives it. Here’s an example from Klaff: “‘Guys, let’s get started. I’ve only got about 20 minutes to give you the big idea, which will leave us some time to talk it over before I have to get out of here.'”

Presenters need to master attention and time, not the details, by respecting an audience’s limits, he says. This approach also plays into anticipation, which will drive your clients to remain focused because they know how long they have to wait for the big idea and the conclusion of the meeting.

2) Use data to back it up.

The person you’re talking to may want be in a great position to invest, but they don’t want to spend their resources on just anything — and especially not the wrong idea. It’s your job to convince them that your idea is the right and best idea for getting the results they want.

Data is one of the best ways to make it easy for the client to say “yes.” With data from either previous tests you ran on the client’s behalf, another brand’s successful marketing experiment, or your previous clients’ results, you can easily prove the value and the potential ROI from the investment in the idea.

By providing data, you are also increasing the trust between you and the client, and it gives her the information she needs to convince her bosses this is the right decision. (To get you started, here are some of the best tools for gathering accurate and compelling data.)

3) Provide case studies.

If you pair data with highlights from a case study, you’ll be an even more powerful persuader and a more credible presenter.

According to Agency Management Institute, one of the biggest influencers in the agency selection process is industry expertise, and case studies are the perfect vehicle for showcasing past successes and your in-depth knowledge of the client’s industry or business.

Case studies are influential throughout the entire buying process because they show that you can do what you say you can do. They help someone better understand what it might be like to work with your team, the quality of the work you create, the results previous clients have experienced, and your processes.

By providing folks with access to case studies — either in the proposal or during a pitch — you can increase your credibility and help the client to imagine what it would be like to work with your firm.

4) Pitch it like you’re telling a story.

No one really wants to sit through a pitch. They want ideas, they want to be convinced, and they want to know that you understand their business and what it needs. But being subjected to a 100-slide PowerPoint presentation is not anyone’s definition of exciting.

Instead of relying on densely packed slides full of steps, ideas, data points, forget the slides — or include only the most essential ones — and pitch the idea by telling a narrative. Captivate their attention through a story.

This most likely means you need an experience with their brand. It could be as simple as describing your visit to the retail location or retelling a story you uncovered by interviewing the brand’s customer service rep. Put them in a frame of mind that readies them for the solution. Build tension, describe interesting characters, and highlight the challenge. Then provide the answer and all the supporting research, information, or creative.

Want more tips on how to sell your ideas? Listen to this episode of The Growth Show featuring Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez, co-authors of Illuminate.

5) Focus on them.

There are too many late nights to count. You spent hours and hours coming up with idea after idea. There were discussions that bordered on arguments. People gave up time with their families and friends to make this person a priority.

But they don’t care. They’re only really concerned with them and their company’s needs, their job, how they’re going to look to their manager or CEO, and so on. You are there to bring them an idea that will make them look good. Your job is to convince them that you or your team can help them achieve their goals within a certain budget and timeframe.

While you might think detailing all the hours and effort you put into the idea/concept/pitch shows your dedication and commitment, it’s irrelevant and distracting. No one cares how long it took you to come to a solution — as long as there is a solution, and it’s the right one.

6) Make it simple.

In one study, researchers replaced shorter words with longer words in college essays. Participants then rated the essays based on how intelligent they thought the authors were. They found that those who used shorter words — more simple language — were perceived as being more intelligent.

Using shorter words, more straightforward language, and explaining things simply and clearly makes people seem more likeable and smart.

Don’t assume that using complex, jargon-filled language is going to either impress the client or confuse them into buying something they don’t understand.

As David Ogilvy said, “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.”

7) Lead them to the answer.

Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion gives hundreds of inbound marketing workshops and speeches each year. And he believes that presenters need a better understanding of how people process information and come to a decision.

An approach he uses in workshops is called the Columbus Principle, which is the idea that “everyone wants to feel like they are the one that discovered America.”

You ask people question after question after question that slowly leads the person to the right answer. People want to make their own decisions — but by employing this strategy, you can help to guide their thought process and instead of telling, you lead them to understanding that your solution is the right solution.

Remember: When you try to make a hard sale, people naturally try to come up with reasons why something wouldn’t work or why this isn’t a good idea. With this approach, people are more likely to embrace the idea because they think they discovered it (albeit through your guidance, of course).

market-your-agency

Apr

17

2016

22 Famous Brand Slogans (And the Little-Known Stories Behind Them) [Infographic]

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This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

In 1977, Gary Gilmore faced a firing squad — the punishment he chose after he was convicted of killing two men in Utah. His last words were: “Let’s do it.”

This phrase would end up becoming the basis for arguably the most famous brand slogan of all time.

Wieden+Kennedy’s co-founder Dan Wieden resurrected and transformed the final words of Gilmore, who was also a native of Portland, Oregon, for a pitch for Nike ten years later. The young shop won the account and the slogan “Just do it” went on to inspire generations of aspiring athletes to get up and get motivated. 

The source of inspiration for Nike’s famous slogan is surprising, but it’s not the only interesting backstory to how brand slogans have come about. Learn more about the history behind the most famous brand slogans in this infographic from Stratx.

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creative-brief-cta

Apr

9

2016

Emotional Advertising: How Brands Use Feelings to Get People to Buy

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This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post. 

Ads that make people share and buy can usually be summed up in one word: emotional.

That should be no surprise. Studies show that people rely on emotions, rather than information, to make brand decisions — and that emotional responses to ads are more influential on a person’s intent to buy than the content of an ad.

As Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, wrote in Fast Company, “The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

Unruly, which ranks the most viral ads each year, found that the most-shared ads of 2015 relied heavily on emotional content, specifically friendship, inspiration, warmth, and happiness. Examples include Android’s Friends Furever and Kleenex’s Unlikely Best Friends.

This emotional awareness from brands hasn’t always been the case, though. In the 1990s and early 2000s, advertisers were more concerned with humor and sarcasm. 

Pereira & O’Dell’s chief creative officer PJ Pereira said: “I think what’s happened is that the ad industry has spent the last decade celebrating bitterness and cynicism and being mean to people. For a while it was great because it was different from everyone else, and then it became a trend and people got sick of it. It wasn’t funny or interesting anymore. So when things started to pop with a totally opposite voice, the customers totally reacted.”

How Emotion Is Used in Advertising

Historically, people have recognized six core emotions: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad.

However, in 2014, the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology published research stating that the distinction between four of these emotions were based on social interactions and constructs. Instead, human emotion is based on four basic emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

Based on these four categories, let’s look at how brands are using emotions to drive connection and awareness:

1) Happy

Brands want to be associated with smiling, laughing, happy customers, and positivity has been shown to increase sharing and engagement. A study in 2010 of the most-emailed New York Times articles found that emotional articles were shared more often, and positive posts were shared more than negative ones. 

The most-shared ad of last year — and of all time — was Android’s Friends Furever, showing clips of unlikely and undeniably cute animal friends.

When Coca-Cola recently changed its tagline from “Open Happiness” to “Taste the Feeling,” it maintained its focus on happy images of people connecting and engaging one another, such as the below ad showing the bond between siblings.

2) Sad

I watch a lot of ads. (Hey, it’s a requirement for the job.) I’ve noticed that, increasingly, those ads have turn me into a blubbering, emotional wreck. There’s nothing like a good cry at work on a regular basis to make your desk neighbors question your stability.

In the past few years, as brands have recognized the popularity of emotional content, more and more companies have focused on creating inspirational and moving ads.

MetLife Hong Kong produced this heartbreaking ad featuring a daughter who describes all the things she loves about her dad, yet the story breaks down when she also describes all the ways he lies to her.

For the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014, P&G continued its theme of recognizing mothers and their unwavering support.

3) Afraid/Surprised

Fear is a natural instinct — one that helps us to react appropriately to threats to increase our chance of survival.

Fear creates urgency and prompts us to take action; to change or more importantly for this story, buy something that will prevent terrible things from happening. As Don Draper said in a Mad Men episode, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”

A lot of scare-vertising tactics can be seen in commercials to prevent drunk driving and cigarette smoking. The World Wildlife Fund is one brand known for its controversial and fear-inducing imagery.

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Image Credit: Trend Hunter Eco

However, this approach is risky. In 2015, Nationwide released an ad during the Super Bowl to promote conversations about child safety and preventable injuries in the home. The ad was disturbing to many viewers. The video features a young boy who talks about all the things he’ll never do, and ends with the line “I couldn’t grow up because I died from an accident.” While attention-grabbing, the ad was called depressing and insensitive by viewers and the CMO of Nationwide resigned from his position just a few months later.

Surprise can also take a positive form as can be seen in one of the best ads of 2015.

4) Angry/Disgusted

Most people think that it is best to avoid anger — it’s a negative emotion that will cause negative associations. But in some cases, anger can wake people up and spur action. We become angry when we see another person hurt or an injustice. Disgust and frustration can cause us to reconsider our perspective and ask important questions.

A study of the most popular images on imgur.com found that while negative emotions were less common in viral content than in positive, viral success happened when the negative images had an element of anticipation and surprise.

Always’ Like a Girl campaign, which won an Emmy, a Cannes Grand Prix award, and the Grand Clio award, uses a famous insult to grab your attention. 

Save the Children’s ad reminding people of the effect of the Syrian crisis on children provokes both sadness and anger.

Which emotions do you associate with specific brands? How have you used emotion in your client’s advertising? Let us know in the comments below.

client-agency-checklist

Apr

3

2016

9 Simple Tips for Running More Productive Remote Meetings [SlideShare]

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This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post. 

More and more companies and agencies are establishing remote working options for employees as flexibility in work schedule and location has become an important benefit for top talent. 

In addition, some agency owners have built their companies to be completely virtual such as SmartBug Media, which has a team of 25 remote team members.

This structure has allowed Founder Ryan Malone to recruit the best talent from anywhere, and it gives his staff more options when determining the lifestyle and location they find most inspiring and fulfilling. 

However, managing a team of remote team members comes with its own challenges. And one of these is running effective meetings. When people are in various different environments, time zones, and even countries, things can start to get confusing. You need a process and structure for making these meetings work.

To learn how to set up and run better meetings with remote employees, check out the SlideShare from Shoretel below.

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