What is an Expert?

How to hire any expert e.g. a website developer

It’s really easy to find a specialist supplier.  It’s really difficult to find out if they are any good at that specialism.  Especially when it is in an area that you know nothing about.

What is an Expert?

What is an Expert? Image Credit: Workcabincommunications.ca

Giving a keynote speech to an industry group recently I was stunned to find how many felt that they did not have the confidence to hire a website designer.  This motivated me to write this short guide.

How to hire an expert (when you don’t know)

Are you a business owner who feels that they got mis-sold or ripped off by a website design project?

Did you pay a lot of money and find that the website you got did not deliver what was promised?

This is my tried and tested technique that will help you to find a supplier who is both an expert and will work well with your project situation.

  1. Start with the outcome you want.  Can you describe in plain English what you want to happen by the end of the project?  Use this to explain what you want to buy.  So you could say I need a website that  will showcase my products to customers living in Australian cities who buy mens fashion.  That is much clearer than “I want a website that will put me on page one of Google”. [By the way, that’s impossible to promise – so don’t trust anyone who says they can do this for you.] When we work with clients seeking websites, read the descriptions we write about their projects.
  2. Ask good questions.  By gaining detail from questions, you can discover the depth of expertise in each business you talk to.  Let’s say you have a written quote from a web developer explaining how they’d achieve your outcome.  You can ask them questions like “What’s the best way to achieve my outcome?” and “How will you go about doing that?”.  So if they say that on-page SEO is the best way to achieve search results for customers living in Australian cities who buy mens fashion, ask them to show you HOW they’ll do it.  Step.  By.  Step.  Yes, I’d ask them to explain in this level of detail.  If they can’t do it, or do not appear consistent, or are unwilling that’s a big red flag that they may not have a robust process methodology.
  3. Know the language they use and understand it.  Write down the words they use in written submissions and in conversation.  Go away and look them up.  What is on-page SEO? How do UTM Tags work?   There is no shame in research and increasing YOUR knowledge.  And afterwards, you can follow up and get them to explain more about the phrase they used once you understand what it is.  So that’s back to Step 2 – ask good questions.
  4. Run tests when you are face to face.  Any skilled operator should be able to show you real live work jobs that they have done or are currently working on that will be using the same techniques as your project. So when you meet your expert – get them to SHOW you what they mean.  Open up Google Analytics for YOUR website live in the meeting on your laptop.  Ask them for their views on your recent traffic history.  Watch how they browse inside Google Analytics – do they know the sub-menus, can they navigate confidently to the answer they’re talking about, do they explain something which you hadn’t noticed?  Nobody who works in marketing should be ignorant of GA.  Including YOU.  So if they don’t or can’t use it.  Run away fast.  Another test you can run is to show them a problem you have and ask how they’d fix it.  Then ask them “How will I know that this problem is fixed?” so that they show you the proof that they are an expert and good at their job and can prove it as well.
  5. Think hard before hiring a friend.  Many business people like to recommend other businesses.  Nothing wrong with this.  But in my experience, your friend or your friend’s friend is probably not the only person who can help you.  Do interview the friend, but also go and look for other supplier experts and compare them fairly.  You want the best value for your business, after all, don’t you?

Now you’ve got a good core set of skills to start your expert hiring process.  Be courageous and keep good records – you won’t regret it.

 

And if you want a website built, or some direct response copywriting, or a video made and overall effective marketing done that brings in sales – get in touch with us.  We will either teach you how to do it yourself or we can do it for you.  Easy!

3 ways to improve proposal writing next steps

We advised a client today about how to make 3 improvements to their proposal ending texts.  Writing a descriptive of your service or product and pricing it is only part of the new business development process.  It is essential that it leads to a next step to keep the discussion going and lead towards a buy/no-buy decision by the prospect.

Three key information points in a proposal

  1. clarifying next steps
  2. adding a timescale
  3. pushing the client towards buying what you want to sell

Here is the original ending paragraph they wrote:

Let me know if you are interested in talking more. If it would help, we can quickly provide a demo of steps 1 and 2 if you provide us with some game event data. As part of that demo we can demonstrate how simple creating new reports / analyses is.

By improving the text the reader is given clear expectations about next steps in the discussion process .

We recommended editing the last paragraph to give clarity on the 3 key information points

“The next step is for you to send us with some game event data and we can quickly provide a demo of steps 1 and 2.  

As part of that demo we can demonstrate how simple creating new reports / analyses is.  We would make a nominal charge for this work of $XXX which will be fully refundable if we proceed to a full implementation.  

I will call you on Wednesday next week to confirm when you can send us the data and a date for the demo.”  

Although sounding rather presumptuous this text sets clear expectations with regard to timeframes and next steps against which you can update your biz dev pipeline.

What are your favourite closing sentences in a proposal?7 Make New Biz Happen icon

A Closer Look at Agency Search Firms – Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA)

This blog post series looks in depth at firms from our List of Agency Search Firms. These are businesses who help to match brands with agencies, while helping those agencies handle pitches and get meetings. You’ll learn exactly what agency search firms do, the different services offered and what your agency needs to look for in a search firm.

For this week we’re looking at the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), an agency search firm concerning all things PR related. They do this by providing paying members (agencies) with industry data and helping them network with prospective clients.

PRCA

PRCA

They offer:

  • Agency search services where prospective clients can search through agencies listed with PRCA.

  • Offer data to paid agency members to further define their field of work and help them adapt to their environment as a company.

  • Networking opportunities, events and page listings for paid agency members to be found by prospective clients.

  • Training and qualification services aim to support practitioners in achieving their professional goals.

  • Mandatory communications management audits for agencies becoming members of PRCA.

Services for Agencies

Agencies can sign up to become a member of PRCA to gain access to a wide variety of benefits. Aside from being placed on the PRCA website to be found by clients, PRCA also help agencies train up for proposals and provide them with opportunities to network. One way they do this is by putting on various events where both agencies and prospective clients are encouraged to attend. PRCA take it one step even further by providing agencies background information and updates on the PR industry.

Services for Brands

If you’re a brand looking for an agency, PRCA provides many opportunities for you to have face time with a range of agencies and better understand what it is they do. Outside of having an agency search engine for brands on their website, brands are openly encouraged to attend meetings and events filled with agencies ready to strut their stuff. An example of this would be the “Hill + Knowlton strategies meeting” inviting senior experts from across the PR industry to speak on various topics.

Charges and Fees

PRCA runs a membership model where agencies pay on a regular basis to take advantage of a full range of services. These come at multiple levels of annual memberships for multiple type of agencies including::

  • Individuals

  • Regulation and registration

  • Students

  • Freelancers

  • Consultancies

  • In-house

  • International agencies

Key members of staff

Who is PRCA right for?

PRCA are an all inclusive package for public relations agencies to improve their skills and gain client work. Training provided by PRCA may be more or less helpful depending on the agency undergoing that training but offers that as a strong incentive to be involved as a member. Their offerings are perfect for an agency to get in, learn some skills, make a few clients and then leave if they so choose. Being membership based makes it flexible for an agency to move in and out of their system so it’s easy to test the waters and be involved in several of their events and courses early on in a working relationship with them.

Shortcomings

Hands on appraoch – Their entire search and development system is more face to face and hands on, rather than a single easy to use and searchable presence for an agency. This could be a blessing as getting clients to interact with an agency is often what they are after.
On the other hand though it does mean an agency spends much more time out of the office and engaging with prospective clients rather than working on current ones while waiting for their presence on the website to bring in more.

PR focus – PRCA focus on public relationship management service agencies first and foremost, rather than the entire range of marketing agencies out there. So if you’re looking for an great all inclusive services agency, but aren’t quite as focused on PR as you are other marketing activities, this may not be the search agency for you.

For a full list of companies in this blog post series, click through to the Agency Search Firms Listly

New business development copywriting: Stalled prospects

September is the time business gets down to work after the summer break.  Blair Enns at the Win Without Pitching team say this is the perfect time to clean out your list of prospects and new business opportunities.

Find out which ones are going to buy and which aren’t worth your time chasing further.  Blair writes

Below is a simple email template that you can use to raise deals from the dead. It works throughout the year but this week, more than any other period in the calendar, is when it works best.

THE EMAIL

It was taught to me as The Takeaway but I refer to it by the subject line that I prefer: Closing The Loop. Draft it, modify it if you dare, but send it to all those prospects you were talking to over the summer about real projects only for them to disappear on you. That’s the intended purpose of this email – to raise deals from the dead and solicit a response from someone who has been avoiding you over the summer.

Your natural inclination is probably to do the opposite of what I’m about to suggest. Resist. Do not send an overly polite email. Do not make excuses for your prospect’s behaviour over the last few weeks. Do not email in pursuit of a yes or even an answer. No, your mission is to strip away all emotions and matter-of-factly just let your prospect go. Below is how to do this and then what to expect afterwards.

Ready?

Read the detailed email Blair recommends

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A Closer Look at Agency Search Firms – Trinity P3

This blog post series looks in depth at firms from our List of Agency Search Firms. These are businesses who help to match brands with agencies, while helping those agencies handle pitches and get meetings. You’ll learn exactly what agency search firms do, the different services offered and what your agency needs to look for in a search firm.

This week we’re taking a look at Trinity P3, a firm that focuses specifically on aiding marketers and agencies find work. Trinity P3 work very closely with their clients. Instead of working through lists that agencies and brands can search, they specifically communicate to the right people to match agencies and brands together. Throughout this process they help their clients manage themselves and their connections.

Trinity P3

Trinity P3 at www.trinityp3.com/

They offer:

  • Brand resource acquisition and allocation services

  • Agency benchmarking and assessment services

  • Environmental company alignment services

  • Agency search and selection services for brands

  • Budgeting services for both brands and agencies

Services for Agencies

With Trinity P3, agencies get matched with brands and can have their company processes assessed and improved. In addition to budgeting, benchmarking and company stats tracking, Trinity P3 also offers agencies an assessment on their environmental impact as a company.

Services for Brands

With agency search and selection services (including agency assessments) and resource acquisition and allocation, Trinity P3 are an all inclusive package company for finding the right agency for a given brand. They also offer budgeting services for brands on their work. Like agencies, brands can also have their work processes reviewed and revamped by Trinity P3. They also receive the same offerings for their environmental impact that Trinity P3 offers agencies.

Charges and fees

Trinity P3 charges clients (both agencies and brands) on a case by case basis and every service they offer on their website comes with a description accompanied by a link to submit a request for a proposal.

Key members of staff

Who is Trinity P3 right for?

Trinity P3 works closely with their clients by maintaining communications rather than using menus and forms. This means they establish a close connection with you as a client and help you with more than just project management and project acquisition or deployment. Trinity P3 offers a good range of services for connecting companies to the marketing industry, suggesting they are appropriate for clients just starting out.

Shortcomings

Few contact free services – The only way to interact with Trinity P3 and their services is through direct messaging of general contact or for proposals.

Difficult to compare agencies as a brand who is searching – They do not have a detailed list of firms and contacts available to you for your assessment outside of directly messaging them. This makes search and selection difficult although still possible as they have links to their contacts so you can assess them individually.

For a full list of companies in this blog post series, click through to the Agency Search Firms Listly

Xero Marketing: a pitch & a critique

Xero is a hugely popular cloud accounts package that has taken much of the Intuit QuickBooks and MYOB business from SMEs worldwide.

Image representing Xero as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Prompted by an article in Forbes about in-house marketing teams versus external agency use, I remembered a pitch we sent off to Xero.
As a customer of Xero and as a marketer, the things I think are lacking or could be enhanced primarily relate to the ease of re-using content and proactively driving it out to the right audience.
B2B comms for existing customers, in a nutshell.
Since Xero is growing internationally, they increasingly have separate user groups who should be communicated to differently – because they need different things from Xero.

Marketing suggestions – I have lots more….

  1. After signing up, there’s nothing to drive me deeper into using the higher features of your products, unless I search.
  2. Apart from support issues and feature requests, what are the useful things you could be communicating with my business [clues – finding support, accountancy advice, higher level feature uses, plug ins, apps developers, tax questions, work-rounds for bug fixes]
  3. How could Xero be leveraging existing customers to drive improved new business and new trial accounts using member-get-member referrals and other incentives?
  4. Autoresponders – for new users within the trial period and for first few months of use  – Xero could have a ‘guide’ much like Kiwibank‘s “Becky” who is there for the user, who acts as a signpost to helpful information inside your knowledge base, who helps check they’ve got the system set up properly.
  5. Why are you using FeedBurner to distribute your RSS feed from the blog?  It’s unsupported and you could be leveraging the channel for marketing messages to your active users in order to drive deeper brand engagement and possibly sales (see 2,3,4 above).
  6. Split out your blog into separate streams so that articles automatically send to different groups (e.g. developers and accountants, US versus NZ) Each would get articles designed for that audiences.  Create separate news feeds for different audiences, and further use them to drive marcoms to support your business growth goals
  7. The more you blog, the bigger your archive.  Readers rarely dive very deep and yet there’s probably heaps of helpful content which is being ignored.  Could they be created into “tip sheets”, e-books, training manuals and other support material? These content solutions can be supporting 1, 2 and 4 above.

As Forbes says, it’s great to be an in-house agency – but lifting your head above the parapet and seeking input and inspiration from an external agency team can be very beneficial.

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New business development copywriting – writing a chasing email

Message in a bottle.

Message in a bottle. (Photo credit: elvis_payne)

We’ve all been there – sent a message and  you’re not sure if they have read it, ignored it or whether it’s not arrived.  How do you politely write a follow up message that provokes action?

One of my cardinal rules in new business development is to remember this one thing

The prospect does not owe you their business – but they do owe you an answer.

So with that in mind, let’s set the scene.

You have invested time and effort in sending a crafted message or proposal over to a prospect – how do you follow up so that you don’t annoy them, what timeframes are appropriate, how can you ensure you are remembered – but not as a nagging irritant?

Why do prospects not answer?

There are many reasons but the main ones are

  1. your offer is not of interest, and not compelling enough to warrant a reply
  2. they are too busy doing other things

The first tends to relate to SEO companies sending spammy offers by email; the second is the one we need to laser in on – because it does not mean your offer is not of interest, it’s just not as pressing as other things at this time.

The aim of your follow up email is to filter out which one applies to you.

Writing Follow-up emails to prospects

Rule number 1 – keep it short.

Whatever you say, enable the reader to glance at two or three sentences and get your full message.

This is not an opportunity  to add to your earlier email content so don’t be tempted to re-iterate your pitch.

Rule number 2 – communicate the bare minimum

Remember we are trying to find out whether they are interested or not.

If they are interested – it could just be the timing is wrong… so your ultimate answer is ‘possibly’, in this case.

The message needs to say who you are; why you are chasing and a reminder of the services.

I always start with a summary of the situation in the email subject line.  So even if they don’t open it, they can see the context.

Following up on our meeting to discuss …………….

Creative Agency Secrets marketing proposal submission………

So, now to the body – here are three possible sentences for you to copy
Thank you very much for your time meeting yesterday.  The actions agreed were…..
 
We discussed your objective of  ………….The topics worthy of more investigation are………..
As agreed we sent you a proposal and could you confirm that you’ve received it?

Rule number 3 – write with grace and if you can, humour

Nagging may work with your spouse or children, but I think it’s bad behaviour in business.  You want to set the tone for your future relationship here and so getting off on the right foot is key.

Use phrases like “My recollection was….” or “I think we agreed that you would do….” So that you are reminding them without sounding hectoring.

Rule number 4 – give the recipient an easy get-out

Even if they don’t give you business today, you don’t want the prospect to write off your company as inappropriate for future projects.  And so thinking about how you can enable them to quit with grace is a good tactic.
Try this one where we were passed from the CEO to the Marketing Director
I waited on X and then emailed him directly.  Is it possible he doesn’t know what we discussed and that you, suggested we meet?
 
Don’t want to push if this is inappropriate, so could you give me some advice?
 See that last line?   Asking for advice is a great way for you to put the boot onto the other foot – get them to advise you on how to pitch their colleague.  I love this and use it quite a lot.  They know their firm and the characters better than you do.
Rule number 5 plan one, last, follow up after this one
The final, final thing to do is to then write a last message telling them that you won’t bother them again if they don’t reply but you would like them to confirm that they aren’t interested at this time.
This then allows them to write back saying ‘no’.  And for you to thank them and say that you’ll stay in touch.  This way the conversation ends and closes off the dialogue and you’ve got an answer rather than just a nothing void.
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Hire the right digital marketing agency – a guide

Here’s a great guide to how to find the best digital agency for your business brand needs.
Getting an organisation who matches your needs and is able to deliver to your brief takes time and careful analysis. Get yourself all the information you need in order to find the best agency and then you have to brief them well.

Writing an awesome creative brief is a challenge and one we can help you out with – even if we’re not doing the work for you. Getting the language and the articulation of your requirements correct will shortcut the selection process of finding the best digital marketing team for your needs.

Types of Digital Marketing Agency

Types of Digital Marketing Agency

 

Get the report from Search Engine Land – a Buyers guide to Digital Marketing Agencies 2013

 

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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.