Failure of the creative agency business model

Reading a great post about the lack of scalability in the creative agency business model is a great reinforcement for me and validation of the business that we run here at Creative Agency Secrets.

Years ago I realised three things

  1. No agency staff are trained on how to do biz dev
  2. A process must underpin successful, reliably consistent new business
  3. Only by getting buy in from all the senior team can it work in the medium term

Our new business methodology underpins all our work and that’s why, like Blair, our  recommendations from past clients fall into 2 camps. The politely nice and the ecstatic. For the latter, we  succeed in embedding a process that has continued long after our consulting assignment ended.  That is the difference the Creative Agency Secrets team makes in new business development.

Follow our 8 step New Business Methodology in the categories on the right side you’ll see articles listed on each step that can help your business embed, codify and practice new business development successfully.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Online marketing for accounting firms: a research summary

Accountancy firms are the backbone of the business economy serving every sector of the community. Business owners use their accountant to get advice and recommendations on a wide range of commercial issues. They are trusted advisors for New Zealand business.

Yet accountants often present themselves poorly online. They are difficult to find on the internet, their websites are dull, unremarkable, and aren’t easy to use for prospective clients who want to research and find an advisor.

The attributes of a good business website:

  • Findable on search engines for search phrases that relate to the industry or product not the business name
  • State the services or products offered in clear, non-technical language
  • Illustrates specialisms and points of difference for the firm
  • Helps guide the customer to the correct service they need
  • Enable the customer to get in touch with the business by a range of communication channels – including social media as well as traditional telephone and email
  • Name key members of staff and their contact details
  • Show office locations, ideally on a map

Every business uses some form of marketing promotion to bring in new clients and to keep current clients coming back for more.

A website is the linchpin of modern business marketing activity. Most other marketing work directs curious web searchers to the website. These days, who hasn’t got a business card without the firm’s URL?

Creative Agency Secrets has appraised a substantial amount of accountancy firms’ websites for evidence of current marketing and promotion activities within the industry.

 

Here’s what we found

  • Over one quarter of all firms surveyed do no marketing promotion aside from their website.
  • 38% have some basic promotion, normally in the form of a newsletter.
  • And at the other end of the scale 6% are very active and seek to engage website visitors and encourage them to get in touch with the firm.

Where does your firm sit on the proactive marketing scale?

Top performers include

  • Deloitte
  • Cabbage Tree Accounting
  • William Buck
  • Astill Hawke
  • DJCA
  • Gilligan Rowe

What sets these firms apart?

The best accountancy firms have several key attributes in common

  1. They are highly informative both on their business, what they offer, and their industry
  2. Their web pages maintain public resources for research and self-discovery
  3. The have prominent and recent communication activity using written, audio and visual media which engages readers and keeps them on the website
  4. They encourage the visitor to reveal his identity to the firm

Why do prospective clients find these factors appealing?

Imagine going into a shop for the first time – you browse around looking for the product you want to buy and at “just the right moment” a sales assistant steps forward and offers to help you. They guide you in an un-pushy manner to the product you want but stay on hand to answer any further questions you have. A modern website needs to do the same job for the firm.

But on a website a visitor is anonymous.

You have no idea who has visited your site – just tracking cookies and the number of visitors in your analytics. The Firm doesn’t know their names, what their interest is and whether they are looking to buy some accounting advice.

Social Media

Businesses are moving into the social media scene. Yet most accountancy firms have not taken advantage of the core social media sites.

twitter researchfacebook researchother social media research

Our research reviewed accountants’ websites for public links to social media sites. We expected to see LinkedIn used the most because it is the professional business social media site but we were wrong: 34% had LinkedIn pages; 34% had Twitter and 46% had Facebook profiles.

Firms with an active social media presence tended to also have higher scores in overall web presence and influence. There are many additional influencing factors and it is important to note that where a company is on social media, they also have invested time in YouTube videos, blogging, or email marketing as well.

We ranked firms comparing their activity on the web by assessing how often they updated their marketing activities and what tools they used to market themselves online. This shows that activity really does boost your noticeability as an accounting firm online. What’s more interesting about these results is the outlying firms with our assigned activity scores of 2, 3 and 4 who also have a good Alexa Rank which suggests that content is an important factor in gaining a prominent online presence.

Online Marketing Tools used by Accounting Firms

There are a lot of opportunities to display expertise using content marketing techniques online.

Newsletters

When searching there accountancy firms’ websites for newsletters, we looked at whether firms actively requested prospective clients’ email addresses, and the ways in which the firm used them. Many displayed historic newsletters but they were often displayed in PDF format which is less searchable or sharable.

Of those with newsletters, a significant amount website visitors had no way to subscribe to receive the news online. Giving visitors the ability to subscribe gets you their email address for a mailing list and analytics information about those visitors. Mailing lists are a great way to start a dialogue with customers by building a self-service database. An opportunity lost by these firms.

Opted in databases of email addresses are among the most powerful marketing assets a firm can own. They can even be used to deliver a series of emails called autoresponders. These can welcome new subscribers, give them an introduction to the firm, and explain its services.

Blogging

Many of the news pages or blogs for the accounting firms we researched are static and have not been updated for many months or even years. They have no clickability or linking to other pages in the website and they are created on a single web page. This means an individual article cannot be hyper-linked, only the whole page.

By creating a blog-style page, the opportunity exists to create more internal and external links to your site which again increases the chances for search engines to visit more frequently as well as encouraging visitors to browse across multiple website pages. This also provides opportunities for other websites to link to specific articles from you which ultimately lead the visitor to your website.

Videos

Larger accountancy firms host videos on their websites, mainly used for training. None have made use of online broadcasting technologies like webinars, podcasts or recordings. Video and audio recording is now cheap and easy to do. They are a good way to communicate and to enable listeners to share your content and are far more engaging than text.

Training

Many accountants provide training and conduct seminars for in-person attendance. It would be very easy to broadcast a training event or record it at the same time for later broadcast. Training is a fantastic marketing tool but if someone can’t make the event time, watching a recording means they can still gain value from it.

 

In Conclusion

Most accounting firms have the beginnings of a good website presence. However they need to add new functionality that works to continuously draw new visitors into the website from search, from the email database and to encourage them to reveal their identities and join in a dialogue with the firm. This can be enhanced by including social media in their marketing plans as they create more and more points of contact for potential clients, as long as you know your clients use social media to connect. LinkedIn is particularly good because of its professional nature.

If you’re an accounting firm looking for a free website appraisal, you’ll find one here at Creative Agency Secrets.

Get in touch with us.

Website not showing up in Google: BNI New Business Development tip of the week

THis week I’m focusing on a client whose website was not showing up on Google – not for pages and pages.

He knew this was a problem and had been overcoming it by paying for SEO to put it onto the top of search.  But he knows this is a short term solution which he doesn’t want to continue.

We investigated and found 3 quick things to correct

  1. Site meta tags were not populated
  2. Blog was created as a page not posts
  3. Photo Alt tags weren’t used and images were uploaded with the camera image id (long string numbers)

So some easy quick fixes.

Medium term, we’re teaching them how to use links and key words in blog posts which will reinforce search queries as well as social sharing and reciprocation.

 

Check out Otautahi Tattoo’s amazing story as refugees from the Christchurch earthquake and relocation, growth and reinvigoration in Auckland – the photo is of All Black Keven Mealamu having his latest ‘rose’ design added.

Otautahi Tattoo with Keven Mealamu All Black rugby player

Otautahi Tattoo with Keven Mealamu All Black rugby player

Enhanced by Zemanta

What does a client brief look like?

Thanks to Dawn who wrote in asking “What does a client brief look like?” 

Agency Client brief template

Agency Client brief template

Let us help you out.

What to do when hiring an agency

If you sub-contract your marketing to an agency or to freelancers, you want to be sure that you pay for and get good quality work.

A lot of the quality of output is due to high quality input.  By that I mean, briefing documents.  If you can explain clearly what you want, how you want it done and timeframes, you are far more likely to get high quality work back.

We use Upwork and People Per Hour to find freelancers and expert sub-contractors.

For briefing we always give a lot of detail and we also ask the freelancer to write back with answers to our questions.

We choose these carefully in order to show us that THEY have read the brief.

  • Please tell me what access permissions you need before you start the job

And we also ask them open questions whose answers tell us if they understand the scope, how they would approach the job and allow us to assess how good their English is.

  • Estimate how long the job will take
  • Tell me what problems you anticipate

Below is a template document which we use when we receive instructions to do some marketing for our clients. You can download it from the link.

Each sub-heading is self explanatory – as a client you should fill in each section as clearly as possible and then send it out to the agency or agencies you want to work with asking them to send you price quotations.

Alternatively, you write longhand what you want and the agency will fill in the gaps in the document.  Then you should approve it before instructing the work.

DOWNLOAD Master Client Planning Brief Template

The Top 6 most popular articles of all time

All my LinkedIn contacts are 3rd degree – how can I connect?

We got an enquiry from a reader who asked this question “I’m utilizing LinkedIn for meeting clients but currently everyone seems to be a third degree. what are some ice breakers I can use to introduce myself.”

As you know, it’s very difficult to get peoples’ attention as they are busy professionals.

Here are some suggestions for you.

  1. Become the ‘go to’ person for interesting articles online about the topics relevant to your clients’ interests.  Share these using Linked In Groups.  Don’t use these groups to promote jobs you are recruiting for.
  2. EVERY DAY check who looked at your LinkedIn profile.  Send them an invitation to connect saying ‘hey, you looked at my profile, did you notice the articles I’m sharing about XYZ.  If you connect with me you get these sent to you as I publish.  Thanks and best wishes.  Use this article we wrote to find their names for 3rd degree connections 
  3. When they connect with you, you can see their email address; add them to your email list of folks who receive your shared articles, get their permission to mail them, and set up a newsletter outside of LinkedIn (we recommend FeedBlitz.com) to send out these messages, preferably linked to a blog of your own.

If you would like to work with Creative Agency Secrets and let us coach you as you build your skills, organize a skype call with us to give us a fuller brief.

4 Profile raising icon5 Relationship Development icon

Enhanced by Zemanta

Facebook marketing for a drink brand on a small budget

Wests NZ LogoWests New Zealand is a Dunedin based manufacturer of Cordials and Soft drinks. Wests have been producing beverages since 1876 and are currently in the process of spicing up their branding.  This includes the purchase of a new bottling machine that allows them to customise their bottles.

Creative Agency Secrets spoke with them to discuss ways they can improve their marketing efforts using the Wests NZ Facebook page.

Facebook marketing goals

Their goals for Facebook include increasing their followers and developing more consistent levels of engagement.

By improving their Facebook marketing they also hope to maximise the potential that this new bottling machine will create. They want to achieve this by generating excitement and anticipation amongst their customers before the new bottles come into circulation.

Because of the investment required for the new bottling machine, they are looking to be as cost efficient as possible with their marketing campaign.

By leveraging their already established Wests NZ Facebook presence they will be able to achieve these objectives with minimal costs.

Wests had already created a solid foundation of Facebook fans, but found that they had reached a standstill. They weren’t gaining new followers and they weren’t consistently keeping their reach and engagement at high levels.

Creative Agency Secrets recommends Building Social Engagement

We gave them some recommendations on how they could go about improving these statistics, which can also be used for their promotion of their new bottling machine:

  • Regular posting to help stabilise reach and engagement of their Facebook fans.
  • Utilising and 80/20 rule when thinking about posts. 80% are aiming to build engagement and the other 20% are marketing their own products and specials.
  • Be active on other group pages (mainly by sharing and liking posts) that are in their product or geographical area. This is to get visitors to these pages to also visit the Wests page.

Would you like to know what ideas we have for your business?

Get in touch with us for a FREE 20 minute chat on the the phone or Skype.

How a creative brand idea becomes a campaign

There is sometimes a bit of ‘black box’ magic that seems to happen when a creative brief turns into an executed campaign.

Some would have you believe there’s ‘secret sauce’ but the reality is that expertise and years of experience are the best predictors of what will be a success and what will fail.

English: Idea for Fundraising 2010 campaign.

Funding appeal by website

 

English: Idea for Fundraising 2010 campaign

English: Idea for Fundraising 2010 campaign.

English: Idea for Fundraising 2010 campaign

I am a Wikipedian Campaign

Take this series of images we found online.

This year, Wikipedia, Row2K and other community funded websites will be running a drive to raise funds.  We have supported Jimmy Wales’ appeal last year and we’ll be doing it again this year.

But compare the lovely, sharable images above with the rather bland appeal text which are on the  Row2K site.  Which would you rather emote and pay out to?
So part of the success depends on creative quality of input.That may be hard to measure, and it’s certainly rarely guaranteed.
But there are inputs that will raise your chances: Starting with using an experienced team for your marketing. Get your agency team members to show you their own work from previous jobs.  Ask how they came up with a campaign and what the “signal moment” was when the core creative idea was articulated.  It’s not rocket science and it’s rarely a single burst of genius – frequently team work and careful development from an initial concept delivers the goods.

Agency uses a ‘reverse RFP’ to showcase services

How’s this for a neat idea? You pitch us in order to win our attention and get your marketing services free by reversing the traditional RFP process.  The Brand pitches the Agency.

Well, I’m not offering it just now but Hart is inviting prospects to submit their ideas by 30th November, 2012.  could be the best new marketing move you make in 2013.

English: (left), Indian academic and a social ...

English: (left), Indian academic and a social entrepreneur, speaking to a group of children (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More innovation and promotion from Indian agency, Law and Kenneth who are celebrating their tenth birthday by organising to mentor social entrepreneurs.  Now that’s a great way of paying back or paying forward (not sure which is which).  Submit your ideas at the Create Project site and read what Founder Anil Nair says about the project

Over the last one year, we have been thinking hard about what we’re doing. We’ve seen ups and downs in the last 10 years of Law & Kenneth, and if at all we’ve created something (besides brands), we’ve created an organisation, of which 300 people and their families are a part. We wondered if this was all we could do.

Ten years ago, when we started off, we were at a certain point. There are many, many people with ideas today that can lead to viable business, and can be ideas around doing business for social good. They also need to be ideas that are innovative in nature. We wanted to build something that would outlive us.

We met Hayden Raw from The Common Room recently and they are also looking at ways to innovate.  Hayden told us, he looks to invest a portion of their client fees into kick starting young entrepreneurs.

Is a reverse RFP a gimmick?

Yes, it almost certainly is a promotion, a publicity stunt or a gimmick.  But it’s a very valuable one for the winning brand team.  Many agencies take on pro bono clients for whom they work for low or no fee – what’s different is using this as part of their own promotion.

We have all whined about a client who was too conservative to buy our ‘great concept’ and so it’s possible by delivering your services under non-traditional fee arrangements, then you have greater leverage to encourage the brand to choose the most risky / creative / far-out communications campaign proposal that you present.

Is that necessarily a bad thing?

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

What does a modern creative brief look like?

Take a look at this Master Client Planning Brief Template It comes from a top international agency – and drifted across our desk in the line of duty.

Call out the bullshit.  This is not good marketing agency business practice.

They asked the client to complete the brief for them.

I understand that ‘cover your ass’ corporates may encourage  these practices but how will this improve client retention? Or client service?

Who on earth is going to agree to that?

What a creative brief should look like

Working with CAS we pitch you an idea which should be aligned to your brand strategy and then we suggest ways we’d like to execute.  You edit / approve but we do most of the thinking and the doing for you.

You are busy – you hire an agency for their expertise and experience and probably to save yourself time.  Surely this could be managed more smoothly?

Call out bad practices – We got the courage to write this post because of these two influential folks below.  Take a stand for good work, honest appraisals and don’t allow bollocks into your working practices.

There, we’ve said it.  Weight off chest.

  • @DannyBrown says “When I realized this, and began writing openly about bad practices and calling out bullshit, it once again raised the level of engagement through the roof, as others were clearly thinking the same thing.”
  • Guy Kawasaki “Unfortunately, “social media experts” cause a lot of confusion and frustration with their Fascist recommendations. It starts with their recommendation that you absolutely must first create a strategy with goals, milestones, and expected results that you can follow, step-by-step, to success. “

What is a good creative brief?

But what should be on a brief if you are producing an integrated campaign that works across platforms?

Edward Boches says

I think the brief ought to start with the problem that we’re trying to solve.

The problem, by the way, may not be an advertising problem. It’s what kind of problem are we trying to solve that would make our brand of more value to this consumer?

I think the second thing it has to address is the use of media, technology, content, and community by the users, customers, or target audience or community members. Thinking about how somebody interacts with stuff beyond just the brand and the category is really important. I would actually go so far as to have every brief basically say, “You can’t solve this problem with an ad. You have to solve this problem with an idea that isn’t an ad.”

Then you get to invent this idea or creative that might be worth advertising, right? I think another way to look at it is to really figure out the problem behind the problem. The problem can’t be, “Oh, we want know about this product.” The problem might be, “Well, what problem do these people actually have that we could solve?” And maybe solving it and actually doing something of value in the world of social media, etc., might be the reason that gets them to pay attention to us and might turn them on to the product we want them to know about. That’s almost coming at it from an extreme perspective in order to fight the inclination to solve problems with a TV commercial.

Broadening the reach of marketing

How do you deal with people who aren’t interested in learning more beyond their narrow specialization?  When a TV advert is the ONLY soution; or social media or direct mail?  Agencies need to be able to work across media platforms, to be collaborative and not stand on their high horse of ‘expertise’ when client brands ask them to work with other agencies on the account.

Nobody, but nobody is a leading edge specialist in everything nowadays.

Boches again

Here’s the downside of that. If you’re not aware of the capabilities of technology and APIs and certain platforms, you may never think up the idea to begin with.

So how will advertising change?

Many of these things are in some ways like the antithesis to how advertising works, where we make our stuff so precious and we want it to be perfect and magnificently designed, and then we’ve got to produce it and then we put it out into the marketplace. That long, linear process might lead to something that’s gorgeous and finished, but it’s not always the best. In a world where things change daily and things are disposable more quickly, it’s not always the best way to do things. I think we’re going to see more convergence among and between marketing, advertising, and software and gaming-type companies over the next five years.

What next?

If you’re an agency – take a look at how you take briefs from clients.

If you’re a brand – don’t stand for any nonsense, if you want to brief the old way – carry on.  If you want a collaborative business partner who will work WITH you to help solve marketing problems, change your suppliers until you find one who CAN do what you need and work the way you prefer.

Read our recommended briefing template and download the word document for you to use.